Oh my damn, look at this ugly lamp.
What some people find beautiful, or once did, appears hellish to others. It’s true of lamps, clothing, furniture and people. Styles change, preferences shift.
When you see something that strikes you as ugly, your first reaction may be to recoil as though the object is coming at you. In the case of this lamp, that’s exactly what I did, rounding the corner of the flea market booth. I believe I even said “Gah!”
It’s fun to walk through the flea market and look for objects that once embodied the finest décor. My personal preference is nineteenth century, which is a bit hard to find in such humble establishments for an amount of money I can afford. Would that I could go back in time and purchase them at Victorian prices with my current salary!
Ugly things tell us a lot about ourselves. Why don’t we like a certain fabric, texture, color? How is it that we prefer blond hair on a guy or gal and find brown or red unseemly? What makes us decide what ugly is?
Writers like to tell us what their characters prefer. Heroes and heroines are always pretty people, played in movies by real-life beauties. How boring and bland that can be.
Why not try making someone a little less than perfect? Think how much more interesting that character would be. Case in point: Quasimodo, Victor Hugo’s tragic bellringer in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Yes, campers, it was a book long before Disney got hold of it.)
I read a Clive Barker novel, Coldheart Canyon, where the heroine was an overweight, average fangirl who had a thing for the hero, a film star. I loved her because she wasn’t tall, gorgeous and windswept or named Kate. She did kick butt when the chips hit the fan.
My bank robber in Rose’s Hostage is extra good-looking, to disarm the captive. The ugliness comes from the violence of his world. In the somewhat literary novel that’s bumping around in my head, the protagonist isn’t at all handsome. In fact, he might be considered ugly, but that isn’t why he is special. (Can’t tell you; I’d have to kill you.)
Or a character could have a taste for ugly things. Maybe they remind him of a more innocent time, maybe he’s a complete nerd with a yen for macramé owls. You decide. Make the choices reveal something about him. If he’s repelled by a deformity, the reader will wonder why.
Throw a little ugly in your WIP. Contrast is a good thing.